Sunday, March 8, 2009

They have no meeting place for council

Homer, The Odyssey, Book IX, from the Robert Fagles translation--Odysseus and his men encounter the Cyclops:

From there we sailed on, our spirits now at a low ebb,
and reached the land of the high and mighty Cyclops,
lawless brutes, who trust so to the everlasting gods
they never plant with their own hands or plow the soil.
Unsown, unplowed, the earth teems with all they need,
wheat, barley and vines, swelled by the rains of Zeus
to yield a big full-bodied wine from clustered grapes.
They have no meeting place for council, no laws either,
no, up on the mountain peaks they live in arching caverns--
each a law to himself, ruling his wives and children,
not a care in the world for any neighbor.

Homer, The Odyssey, trans. Robert Fagles (New York: Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition, 1997), 214-215.

Here is another version of the passage from Book IX, in the translation by Alexander Pope (1726):

By these no statutes and no rights are known,
No council held, no monarch fills the throne,
But high on hills, or airy cliffs, they dwell,
Or deep in caves, whose entrance leads to hell.
Each rules his race, his neighbour not his care,
Heedless of others, to his own severe.

Homer's Odyssey is of course infused with rhetoric -- for a good primer on this see Andrew J. Karp, "Homeric Origins of Ancient Rhetoric," Arethusa 10 (1977): 237-258; reprinted in Edward Schiappa, Landmark Essays on Classical Greek Rhetoric (Davis, CA: Hermagoras Press, 1994) -- Google Books version here.

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